Saturday, November 26, 2011

Riding Partner

Biking is more fun with a partner.

Some people like riding with people from their bike club.  Some ride with friends from their neighborhood or work.  Me, I'm married to my riding partner.  This has advantages and disadvantages.  (Doesn't everything?)  But there are definitely more advantages than disadvantages.  He is stronger and faster.  I descend better than he does.  (We have fun chasing each other on hilly rides.)  The biggest advantage is being able to share something that we both enjoy totally.

Can't beat that.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Riding the Horrible Hundred

We woke early, dressed for the ride, and groggily wandered down to the hotel's breakfast area.  The place was packed with riders.  You couldn't help but feel sorry for the handful of tourists who found themselves with this group.  My heart went out to one poor beer-bellied guy who was dressed for Disney or one of the other theme parks, a pudgy wife and two pudgy kids in tow.  He and his wife acted as if they were surrounded by aliens.

A half hour later we were off to the ride.  Clermont, Florida, is about 20+ miles west of Orlando.  It is typical Mouse-Town suburbia.  Gated golf communities, subdivision, after subdivision, retail mini-malls filled with all the franchise names that fill suburbs across the country.  It's claim on Florida bicycle lovers is its topography.  Hills that pitch up and down only 200-250 feet, but they are constant and vary unexpectedly from long ramping climbs to short steep climbs.  It is a LOT more fun than a day at the theme parks!

This is a popular ride.  (This year 2100 riders!)  Lots of groups from bike clubs come.  We try to avoid the mass of riders that swarm out at the beginning of the ride.  These are the avid competitive types, fun to watch, but, frankly, not our style.  We ride simply for the fun of pedalling.  So we wait at the beginning of the ride for most of the riders to head down the road, then we hit the road.  It means we are way behind most, but, since it isn't a race, who cares?  It was a good strategy on this ride.  The day was sunny, warm, and humid.  The heat and humidity meant that we needed to pace ourselves better than usual.  We didn't need the excitement of a pack to tempt us into pushing our limits.

The rest stops were less flamboyant than past years', but the treats still as much fun.  I am a total sucker for chocolate truffles, dark chocolate chips, and the like.  As long as you are swilling down Gatorade, you might as well nibble some Ghirardelli chocolate, too.

Before the ride ended, we stopped briefly on a bridge to enjoy the quiet water view.  Then we pedalled to the parking lot where we left the car, put the bikes on the carrier, chatted briefly with a woman about a ride in Ocala, and, enjoying the usual post-ride euphoria, started the car and headed back to the hotel for a shower.  There was a post-ride meal, but we had other plans for our time.

Back at the hotel, we showered and changed.  Heading back out through the lobby, we passed groups of sweaty riders heading up for showers.  We all looked very tired, but very pleased with ourselves.

It was a really great ride.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Horrible Hundred Century Ride

This year will be the fourth time we've ridden the Horrible Hundred Century ride, but only the third time as paid participants.

The first time was right after we moved to Florida.  We had moved here from the Blue Ridge Mountains of northeast Georgia.  We loved it not for the climbs but for the wonderful rest stops.  Music, scrumptious sweet treats, costumed volunteers.  It was fun stuff.

The second time was the time we were not paid riders.  We were on an independent bike tour (just us, our folding Bike Friday Llamas, and our trusty Ortlieb suitcases clipped to our rear carriers) riding from Savannah, Georgia, to Lake Placid, Florida.  We had taken the train up to Savannah, and we were taking our time riding home.  We had picked a bike-friendly route from the east Florida coast to the center of the state.  We were surprised to find a bunch of riders on our route.  They, in turn, seemed awfully friendly and very surprised to see the two of us tooling up and down the hills with our suitcase-laden bikes.  When we passed one of the great Horrible Hundred rest stops, we figured out who the other riders were.  (Since we couldn't have their rest stop snacks, we stopped later for a Ben and Jerry's splurge eaten straight from the container while sitting on the curb outside the convenience store where we made the purchase.)

We were doing independent touring and missed the ride for several years.  Last year we went again.  We were most impressed by the unrelenting cheerfulness of the riders.  On one long hill, the string of riders walking their bikes up the hill were cheering madly for those of us that pedalled by them!  Now that is enthusiasm.

Today we drove to Clermont.  We picked up our registration packet and t-shirts.  There were several rides today, but we didn't go on them.  Instead we wandered through the large area of vendor displays.  Lots of nice bikes and gear.  Then we were off to the motel.  There are a lot of interesting motels in the area, but we had errands to run.  The most convenient motel for all our running about was the local Hampton.  It has one of those annoying corded Internet hook-ups in its rooms, but at least it has freshly baked cookies in the afternoon.

Life is all about compromises.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fall in the Florida Scrub

What struck me on our ride today were the fall flowers in the scrub.  Two in particular were standouts.  The yellow button was a strip of color along the road.   And the dog fennel stood about 10 feet tall in the pasture land of a nearby ranch.  (If the cattle were in there, the dog fennel covered them completely!)  Dog fennel is covered with very tiny white flowers that are quite fragrant.
Yellow Button
Dog Fennel - At least 10 feet high!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Maxing out Highland County's "Hills"

We needed to up our hill climbing practice.  So we decided to do five consecutive loops of the best hilly stretch we have.  It adds up to about a 15 mile hill segment in the middle of our 30 mile local ride.

It worked out pretty well.  The fun was watching some construction guys become increasingly interested in us as we passed their work site time, after time, after time.  One guy was actually smiling and waving by the last couple of passes.

I can't help wondering if they'll still be there next Wednesday when we do that route again.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Long Windy Ride

As I've said, we're getting ready for a hilly bike event.  Since we don't have a lot of hills, we were pleasantly surprised to get a very windy day.  Riding in the wind really does get you stronger and improve bike handling skills.  Today's wind was perfect for a long ride challenge.  The wind was around 17 mph, gusting to 26 mph.  We headed out to do at least 50 miles.  (Which we did.)

Our funny critter sighting was a very close run-in with a wild pig.  The wild pig was darting out from a deep roadside ditch to cross the road.  He never heard us on our bikes, and his wild-eyed expression, his frantic jump into the air, and his panicked scramble to turn around and head back to the cover of the roadside bushes was truly comical.  A pig is agile and quick, but its large size makes scrambling movements look downright silly.

Florida has the image of being heavily urbanized.  Well, that is pretty much what coastal Florida and Disney Florida are like.  But inland or south near the 'Glades, things are pretty rural.  Our home's postal address is Lake Placid.  But that small town of a little over 2000 is about five miles from us.  We actually live in an unincorporated community called Placid Lakes.  Placid Lakes was created by August Tobler back in the 60s when he decided to develop his ranch, which bordered on Lake June, into a planned community, complete with a small canal system for boat access to the lake.  It's about 4.5 square miles of land with about 8100 residential lots.  In almost 50 years, only about 2000 of these lots have had homes built on them.  A good number of these homes are vacation homes of Florida coastal people and winter homes of snowbirds.  The homes are boring in a comfortable way: little ranch style homes from the 60s and 70s, Florida international style homes from the 70s and 80s, and, that standard from the 80s to the present, the boring Mediterranean style home.

If I had to show just one picture that says it all, it is this: a view of Placid Lakes' "downtown."  It has the town hall (see the flag?) and the adjacent "business district" (a convenience store and gas station which share a very small strip mall with two real estate offices, a barber shop, and an empty storefront). That's it.  Down the road a mile is the standard small country club and golf course.  A few miles farther is a small air field with an array of hangars and outbuildings.  That's about it other than a few acres belonging to the local model airplane club and a small park and boat launch on the lake.  Placid Lakes, Florida 33852.  A blip of a community surrounded by ranches and wildlife preserves. 
Downtown Placid Lakes

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happiness is a Newly Resurfaced Road

When you ride a bike, you notice rough pavement.  It may be interesting to watch the Paris-Roubaix, but when a local road reminds you of that race things are not good.

There is a 2-mile portion of one of our rides that rattled the bones.  Drive the same road in a car, and the pavement didn't seem that bad.  But on a bike, it was something you just endured.  There was no way to avoid the stretch without a multi-mile detour onto the paved shoulder of a major highway.  So you endured.

Sometime since our last ride on that route, the road was resurfaced.  As we approached the area, I slowed somewhat and got ready for the bone-chattering entry to the bad stuff.  But instead there was a smooth, fast, beautiful new road surface.

It was better than Christmas.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Our "Hilly" Local Route

We're getting ready for a ride in hills at the end of the month.  Since Highlands County is at the southern end of the Lake Wales Ridge, we have only a few climbs available here.  "Hilly Florida" is up west of Orlando by Clermont and Mt. Dora.

A View of Lake June from North Main Street
We've added a local loop route through Lake Placid to do a 30-plus mile ride with the best hills in the area.  Those are all found in a 3 mile stretch on North Main Street between downtown Lake Placid and Highway 27.  Our route does two loops of the hilly section of Main Street before heading back toward home with a 10 mile loop near our little airport.  It's a nice route, and it is the closest thing to hill climbing practice available.

We used to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northeast Georgia.  Hill training was easy there: there was no flat area to ride.  Luckily, once you learn to climb, you never really loose the skill. But unless you are really good, climbing is never pretty.  You simply find your rhythm and don't rush and over-extend yourself.  It let's you pedal up any climb.  (If a lot slower than you might like.)  The more climbing you do, the better you get, and the faster you go up the hills.

We felt pretty good this morning about our beginning of season climbing efforts.  We did the hilly stretch about 10 miles into our ride, and it wasn't much of a strain.  I imagine I'd have a different opinion if we'd done 30 miles first, but for now we are happy.

We also made the final adjustments to our new Adamo road saddles.  I put the seatpost adjustment up a quarter inch, and put the saddle itself farther back, not quite to it's farthest position, but close.  I like riding on the drops, and this is the most comfortable saddle position for me.  Al has also put his seat back, but he went to the farthest back position.

Al's bike is heading to the bike shop tomorrow.  He jammed his chain when he shifted too quickly going up a hill.  We freed the chain, but now there's an audible rub of something up front.  The bike shop will sort it out.